Nothing is worse than a meeting with the beneficiaries of a will that states each child will not inherit equally.
Those left with smaller shares seldom understand the reasons. Their first thoughts are that the will should be ignored and the assets divided equally.
The children inheriting the larger portions do not see it that way, so right from the outset there is conflict.
The assets of the dead person, including the proceeds of life policies, create few problems when the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary. But it is a very different situation when the children inherit different amounts.
Parents should understand that a will bequeathing different values that children might consider unfair usually leads to a rift between the siblings.
Parents mean well and often have reasons for the inheritances they leave, but most aggrieved children don't understand this when sharing the assets.
There is a difference between leaving fixed possessions and cash.
Where valuable family heirlooms such as jewellery and expensive furniture are divided unequally parents often have no idea that the division might cause arguments between siblings that often develop into a family feud.
The problem is even worse when a parent has had a second or subsequent marriage and each spouse has children from different marriages.
You and your spouse might have tried to ensure that all of your children are treated equally, but they often do not see it that way.
So talk openly with your children about your will. Tell them how you intend leaving your assets to them.
It is natural to love all children equally, but parents often feel the need to divide their assets in varying proportions.
Discussing this with your children beforehand and explaining the reasons for your thinking could help alleviate future family problems.
You should ask your children for their views before you draw up your will and also be willing to make changes.
Property always presents a problem because one child might want to keep it and others might not.
Avoid this by earmarking specific items for each of your children.
l Bryan Hirsch is chief executive of Pioneer Financial Planning. Visit www.pioneer.co.za or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.